If you’re in the business of record management, then you have probably heard of the American Records Managers Association, or ARMA for short. ARMA International is a not-for-profit professional organization that takes record-keeping very seriously. This organization created the Generally Accepted Record Keeping Principles under which all business records should be maintained.
8 Record-keeping Principles
All in all, there are 8 main record-keeping principles, but they do not follow a hierarchy of importance:
While all 8 principles are equally important, we’ll discuss the latter 4 of them below.
One critical principle is compliance with applicable laws or other binding authorities as well as compliance with your organization’s policies. While compliance may be an obvious requirement, your record-keeping practices need to show that your organization’s activities are conducted in a lawful manner and that your record-keeping is done in a manner that’s consistent with the law.
According to ARMA, any information an organization maintains must be accessible in a timely and efficient manner. Your records may be used for individuals or groups inside of your company to share work, for review by legal and compliance authorities, or for corporate functions to help management make decisions.
Your organization must maintain and archive its records for an appropriate time. For retention purposes, it’s important to take into account legal, regulatory, and historical requirements. How long records are stored will depend on what type of records they are and how they are used.
While records may be stored for a long time, they are not usually kept forever. Your organization must have rules and procedures in place to dispose of records once they no longer need to be kept according to applicable laws and your organization’s policies.
Meeting the Challenge of Archiving and Deleting Documents
When you use traditional document storage, you’ll quickly realize that it’s necessary to destroy old documents because your storage capacities are overflowing. The challenge with keeping documents electronically is that you can’t really see how much information you’re storing.
The good news is that archiving and deleting documents is actually much easier than purging paper records. Not only can you save yourself the cost and time of shredding the documents, but you can automate the process.
Good document management systems allow you to predetermine when documents go into the archives according to best practices for your organization. Many companies find that they have to keep a lot of paperwork in order to comply with applicable laws and regulations often long past the time they actually need to use it. That’s what archives are for.
Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure that you are keeping all of your records for the required time period when you use document management software. It eliminates periodic filing cabinet cleanup and allows you to focus on doing other important things.
Sharing Documents and Staying in Compliance
The ARMA’s standards are not easy to meet. On the one hand, your organization is required to keep records according to the letter of the law. On the other hand, your information needs to be accessible. Some information has to be protected in order for your company to remain compliant, while other information needs to be shared with outsiders beyond your organization.
Fortunately, document management software can fill both needs. With user-based access, you can easily control who can view and alter the documents you’re storing. At the same time, storing documents electronically makes it easy to find what you’re looking for at any given moment. Whether you have to present records to a colleague, management, or a court official, you can find what you’re looking for with a quick word search.
How DMS Supports ARMA
In order to follow the 8 principles created by ARMA, your company needs document management software. While it’s possible to comply with every requirement on a small scale using filing cabinets, locks, and trusted employees, it quickly becomes unsustainable when your company grows.
Besides, proper record-keeping comes with a lot of headaches if it’s not done correctly. For example, not complying with local laws and statutes can even cost your company money if you end up with a fine. Not following the availability principle can also result in fines if the documents are required by a court. What’s more likely to happen is that management will make inappropriate decisions because they didn’t have the necessary information at their fingertips. Your company may even lose a new client because of its inability to retrieve the necessary records at the right time.
Fortunately, modern record-keeping allows your and your business to avoid negative consequences like these. In fact, using our electronic document management system makes it incredibly easy to follow each of the principles outlined above. eFileCabinet has them built right in. Why don’t you give it a try?